Canada’s Election: A Review of the Bloc Platform on Digital Issues

We continue our platform election review on the Bloc Québécois party platform. As always, we are focusing specifically on copyright and privacy related issues.

Note: This is an article I wrote that was published elsewhere first. It has been republished here for archival purposes

We’ve already reviewed the Liberal party platforms, so now we turn our attention to Bloc Québécois. At this point, I’d like to remind everyone that we are only looking at digital issues, so we are setting asside the issue of separation.

Unlike other parties, we do have a bit of a language barrier to overcome since their party platform is in French. Finding and reading this platform wasn’t exactly easy. To get the platform, you go to the website and click on the link that says Platforme Électorale on the left column of the website. After that, you click on the “Télécharger la plateforme électorale” link in the new light box that appears. Clicking on the link will allow you to save the PDF.

We will be using Google translate to get a general idea of what is being said in the platform.

The Bloc Platform

The issues of copyright can be found on page 42:

The Law on copyright does not take into account the impact of new technologies, the arrival of the Internet, and must be changed as soon as possible. Any work worthy wages, it is necessary for creative and creators can receive their due, while ensuring that consumers benefit from this new source of access to creation.

There certainly is some similarities between the Liberal and Bloc position in that it’s difficult to tell whether their position is in favour of foreign record labels and movie studios or in favour of Canadian and Quebec interests. On the one hand, they seem to be repeating the propaganda of foreign interests while at the same time saying that consumers interests must be heard. So, hard to pin-point a position on that.

Unlike the Liberals, though, the Bloc goes further:

Currently, illegal downloading is wrong artists, who receive nothing for their creations, while the ISPs are the only ones to receive the fruit of work of others.

This suggests that ISPs are the only people who are benefiting from music found online. I’d say that nothing could b further from the truth because, I, as an artist, wouldn’t have anyone able to hear my music without the internet. I, as a creator, benefit from having a new medium to show off my work. Without the internet, I can say that very few, if any, would even be hearing my music. So, on the perspective of an artist, I flatly disagree with this assertion.

The Bloc discusses Bill C-32 as well:

Bill C-32, introduced in June 2010 by the Conservatives, not only empowers industry and is limited to addressing the consumers who pay for it yet they Internet access.

Just reading this kind of gives me the impression that the Bloc really didn’t read too much in to Bill C-32 given that it is overly general about C-32 in its description.

In the 3.2.3 section on the same page, the Bloc says the following:

The Bloc Québécois will ensure that the new Act on copyright and fair disadvantage or not the creators or consumers, including an upgraded system of private copying by applying MP3 players and other portable digital players reasonable royalties to artists in redistribution, by abolishing the exemption of world of education with respect to payments of royalties, and recognizing the resale right for visual artists.

So, they want to remove any exception in copyright for educational institutions that are already cash-strapped as it is – especially to things like royalty hikes by Access Copyright which is its own can of worms. That comment alone sort of make it sounds like the Bloc are the mouth piece of Access Copyright which has no interest in siding with consumers in the slightest.

In addition, they seem to want to remove re-sale rights from consumers and hand it over to rights holders instead. If I buy a CD, find out that I don’t like the music on that CD, what gives rights holders the right to say I’m not allowed to re-sell that CD? I paid for that piece of plastic, what’s the difference between re-selling that CD and re-selling a child’s toy once it’s outlived its usefulness?

It gets even worse:

The Bloc Québécois is committed to fostering a formula requiring service providers Internet to pay a fee to a fund used to pay the creators Quebec injured by the illegal downloading of artistic products.

So, in other words, they want ISPs to pay a levy and funnel the money to rights holders. This is nothing short of double-dipping. If I were to go online while paying the hiked fees of access because of this levy, then go on eMusic and pay for music, why am I paying the artist twice for the same service? It’s like I have to pay money to artists to drive to and from a music store just so I can pay for the music once I’m there. It’s completely unfair for consumers.

After an long search, we were unable to find any reference to Lawful Access and privacy. Whether it was because it was lost in translation in the 195 page document, or that it wasn’t really covered is unclear.

Overall Impression

This is well and truly a good news and bad news case. The good news is that the Bloc is way more direct with their policies, the bad news is that it’s not in the interest of Quebec or Canada. They seem to take an anti-consumer approach by simply listening to foreign corporations and running with it. Their track record on copyright isn’t much better either. In 2008, the Bloc made some criticisms of Bill C-61 (one of the bills widely known as the Canadian DMCA) – and those criticisms were that the didn’t go far enough. They argued that ISPs should be liable for copyright infringement. This position is reflected in the platform which means that their position has hardly changed since 2008.

I don’t live in Quebec, so I wouldn’t be able to vote for or against them. However, should I have had that opportunity and if the election were based on these issues alone, I’d definitely vote against it. For a party that prides itself for being solely in the interest of Quebec, they sure seem to take an anti-Quebec approach with respect to copyright.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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